The Schembart Carnival or Nuremberg Shrovetide Carnival was very popular in Nuremberg, Germany. From 1449, throughout the 15th century, the carnival till 1539 due to the complaints of an influential preacher named Osiander. Osiander objected to his effigy being paraded on a float, depicting him playing backgammon surrounded by fools and devils. Each year, the carnival featured costumed men with bearded masks carved of wood, carrying on and generally acting foolishly. The carnival featured music, food, drink and speakers who poked fun at politicians, persons of power, and government policies.
According to legend, the carnival had its roots in a dance that the butchers of Nuremberg were permitted to hold by the Emperor as a reward for their loyalty during a trade guild rebellion. Over the years, the event became more subversive. It evolved and began to let the masses take part in elaborate costumes and large ships on runners known as “Hells”. Details about the Schembart Carnival became available through more than 80 Schembartbooks. These manuscripts richly illustrate the Nuremberg Schembartlauf events of 1449 to 1530. The Schembartbooks were written from the late 16th century until the 19th century and are quite similar. Most have coloured drawings of the costumed men and festivities of each year, and they list the names of participants, descriptions of masks, and a recording of the better carnival events. Thirty-five originals are located in Nuremberg libraries, most of them in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nurenberg and about thirty more are in other German cities. Some books reside abroad. Since the 17th-century sporadic performances are reported, but only starting in 1974, the Nuremberg “Schembart Gesellschaft” performs the event regularly, although not every year. Take a look at some of the craziest costumes below.